Three generations of Martin family help preserve Perryville cemetery

May 17, 2004|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

Clayton Martin probably knows more about Hillcrest Cemetery than anyone. That's because he's spent a lot of time checking out the grounds.

The Martin family has been involved in cemetery work more than 90 years. His father was overseer before him, and his grandfather was one of 46 local citizens who donated money to purchase the back section of the cemetery in 1918.

Martin has been overseer of the cemetery for more than 60 years, and followed in the footsteps of his father, Carl Martin, who held the position almost that long.

Martin is especially proud that a trust fund was established at Farmers National Bank during his tenure as overseer. Interest earned from the money is used for upkeep and beautification of the cemetery that was established in the late 1700s and is now home to more than 3,000 graves.


Land also has been added in recent years. "Anytime land becomes available, we buy it whether we need it or not," Martin said.

Many of those who are interred there were his friends, and he knows where most of the graves are.

"I've enjoyed it," he said of his work at Hillcrest.

"I'm 90 years old, and this is the only project on my schedule," said Martin, who was named director emeritus and advisor after a new board was named.

His grandfather was the first person buried in new section in 1918

Martin's grandfather, Samuel Thomas Martin, was on the original board when the new section of the cemetery was purchased in July 1918. He was the first person to be buried in the new section when he died Nov. 27, 1918.

"I started working with the cemetery after I moved back to Kentucky from West Virginia," said Martin. "Dad used to take care of it and I took the job after he quit. It's a job without pay and is a thankless job, but someone has to oversee it," he said. He enjoys seeing the cemetery well groomed. "I enjoy seeing it look nice. You could see weeds growing tall when I first took over. Now we own machinery to keep it looking good."

When spring arrives, Martin, with the help of his children, puts plants in a flower bed near the flagpole.

"I got the rock from an old fence that was being torn down on Shortline Road," said Martin as he watched plants being set in the bed last week.

Martin was four years old when his grandfather was laid to rest in Hillcrest, but his memory is vivid of what happened when the tombstone was being placed.

"When they (monument company) moved the stone, it got knocked off the foundation." He pointed to the damaged area where a chip was made.

He returned to Kentucky in 1951

Martin has had lots on his schedule besides working at the cemetery. After he got out of college in 1936 he worked for Commercial Credit Corp. in West Virginia until he returned to Kentucky in 1951. He and his wife, Ila Mae Rankin Martin moved to Harrodsburg with their family. He worked for the Ford garage a few years, then worked for state government in Frankfort until he was retired a few years ago.

Martin has always been interested in history and the railroad. His roots go back to Stewart, a small community near the Boyle-Washington County line, that was named for his maternal great-great-grandfather, John Stewart, who helped bury the dead during the Battle of Perryville in 1862. He grew up in Brumfield, where his parents and grandparents worked at the Louisville & Nashville railroad depot. He had two uncles who worked on the railroad and his grandfather was postmaster and his father delivered the mail in Brumfield.

"I live three blocks from the railroad in Harrodsburg. When I'm home and have nothing to do, I walk down to watch trains go by."

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